With less than two months to go now until the Daryl Mills PBR Invitational on Apr. 20 and 21, things have really come together for one of the biggest bull-riding events in Canadian history.
Boasting of $30,000 in added prize money, the PBR Invitational will be Canada’s largest purse added only after the PBR Canadian Cup Series Finals, which means some of the biggest names in bull riding will embark upon Fort St. John’s North Peace Arena for the event in late April.
“Everybody’s just really excited,” said retired professional bull rider and Pink Mountain native Daryl Mills on Tuesday. “It’s not the first time we’ve had bull riding in Fort St. John, but it’s the biggest one we’ve ever had.”
“In the past, the bull riding’s been very well taken. I think they’ve all been sold out. I’m looking back to the days when they had a memorial bull riding for my brother Shane and it was always sold out too. There’s a big fan base in Fort St. John.”
It’s been years since North Peace Arena has seen this kind of bull-riding action, and both Mills and co-organizer Terry McLeod have worked hard to make it one of the most memorable events in recent history.
In the past week some of the final touches have been added, as Canadian Country Music Awards nominee Shane Chisholm was booked to play the Invitational’s Dance in the Dirt on the Saturday night, and tickets went on sale at 8 Seconds Western Wear only as of Tuesday.
Aside from getting sponsor packages together and selling tickets, organizers say everything is under wraps.
“We’re pretty much lined up,” McLeod said from the Horse Park on Tuesday. “The tickets went on sale [Tuesday], it’s a two-day event, three day if you’re VIP –Friday night we’re going to have a VIP dinner.”
“I think everything is really coming together well,” Mills added via speaker phone. “We’ve just got to do a little more sponsor runs and cross a few more Ts, but I think we’re almost ready. We’ve got everything in place.”
Thirty competitors are expected at the Invitational from the U.S., Canada and even Brazil, as top bull riders who don’t qualify for the Built Ford Tough Series on that same weekend will likely head up north to Fort St. John’s PBR Invitational.
“If they’re eligible and they can make it, they’ll come,” Mills said. “This is a Level 2. The Level 1 is the Built Ford Tough, and if they’re not in the Level 1, they’ll be at this event if they’re trying to be in Level 1. It’ll be the top riders.”
“With the combination of the prize money and the points system the PBR has in place this system, I don’t think [being in Fort St. John] will deter them at all.”
“The guys that don’t make that series that same weekend in the U.S., the rest of them will come north, so we’re talking top guys. Big names.”
The city is also set to benefit from the PBR Invitational as hotels, restaurants and businesses will see positive effects of the busy bull-riding weekend. Dozens of locals will be involved in the PBR Invitational as well as volunteers, including Justin Volz who will have a behind-the-scenes part to play.
“Lots of locals have been getting involved,” Mills said. “Justin Volz is our stock coordinator and a stock contractor. He’s bringing some of his bulls and is choosing all the bulls that will come to our event. He’ll be helping me run the chutes as well.”
“There are lots of volunteers and people have been involved in the past.”
To make the event that much more special, net proceeds will go to the Fort St. John Hospital Foundation, the Cowboy Crisis Fund as well as towards new equipment for the B.C. High School Rodeo Association’s upcoming venue, The Horse Park, which is currently being built on the 259 Road.
“Making it a charity event like it is and giving back makes it that much more accepted by the public,” Mills said. “Fort St. John is a booming town. We have lots of resources and lots of income, so as far as us being able to get prize money up like that [to help the charities more] it shouldn’t be a big problem at all.”
“I’m looking forward to the event itself and being as big of a part of it as we are,” he added, “And being responsible for holding an event of that size and to have that caliber of riders coming to Fort St. John.”
The Daryl Mills PBR Invitational will run Apr. 20 and 21 at the North Peace Arena. Tickets are available at 8 Seconds Western Wear.